Economy 10-01-2024 13:05 9 Views

House GOP lawmakers keep hyping the numbers on Hunter Biden’s foreign deals

“Joe Biden knew exactly what he was doing, he knew exactly how his family was receiving tens of millions of dollars from our enemies around the world.”

— Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), interview on Fox Business Network with Maria Bartiromo, Dec. 22

“I mean, you have more than $20 million that has been moved to the Biden family through many of their shell companies and in LLCs that they set up. We know that a lot of that money came from foreign adversaries, including China and Russia and Kazakhstan and places like that.”

— House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Jan. 7

“Based on the evidence I’ve seen so far, I think the number is going to be north of $50 million that we’re talking about here. This will go down as one of the most politically corrupt presidents and families in U.S. history.”

— Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), interview on Fox Business Network, Aug. 22

As House Republicans pursue an impeachment inquiry against President Biden, they routinely cite inaccurate and misleading figures about how much the “Biden family” — let alone the president — received from foreign sources. After reviewing records released by the House Oversight Committee, we documented in August that lawmakers frequently suggested that the Biden family had received money that actually went to associates of Hunter Biden, the president’s son, or James Biden, the president’s brother.

By our estimate, there were about $23 million in total payments. Of that, we estimated that nearly $7.5 million can be fairly attributed as going to “Bidens,” but virtually all of that $7.5 million went to Hunter Biden. No money could be traced to Joe Biden. We noted that the total was nearly $11 million if one transaction from Russia (detailed below) was put in Hunter’s column.

The House Oversight Committee staff, which previously had not detailed how much money flowed to Bidens as opposed to associates, did not respond to requests to review our estimates before publication in August. But a month later, they disputed The Fact Checker’s estimate to CNN and gave a different figure — without showing how the calculations were made. “Of $24 million in payments between 2014 and 2019, $15 million went to members of the Biden family and $9 million went to associates,” the committee told CNN. A Sept. 27 memo from a trio of lawmakers heading the impeachment investigation also offered that breakdown, but again without explaining how it was calculated.

The committee has released additional reports since our August article and this time engaged in an extensive exchange with The Fact Checker about the numbers. We will show how they come up with an estimate of $15 million — and whether those numbers hold up to scrutiny.

The House Oversight Committee has struggled to connect President Biden to any nefarious acts, so lawmakers have relied a lot on innuendo. The House speaker’s reference to “shell companies” is a good example. As we have shown, virtually all of the companies that received the funds in question had legitimate business interests. Similarly, lawmakers have claimed that it’s not clear what Hunter Biden did to earn the money, when it’s often quite evident. For instance, Hunter Biden earned millions as a board member of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company. (Whether he was qualified for the post is another matter.)

One has to cross-reference various footnotes in different reports issued by the committee to get a sense of the money flows. A committee spokesperson said the committee “will release our accounting at the conclusion of our investigation and once we have obtained all the subpoenaed bank records. We are currently in the process of receiving additional bank records and will be updating our figures in the near future.”

To keep it simple, we will focus only on money that the committee claims flowed to the Biden family, not Biden associates — which is primarily Hunter.

$6.5 million in China payments

In a statement, the committee spokesperson laid out the committee’s math.

The committee memos report that in 2017, a Shanghai-based company (State Energy HK Ltd.) transferred funds to Robinson Walker LLC, a firm associated with Rob Walker, a former Clinton administration official and business associate of Hunter Biden’s. Then, over the next three months, $1.06 million was transferred from Robinson Walker to “Biden family members,” including Hunter’s uncle James and widowed sister-in-law, Hallie.

Meanwhile, Hunter received a $1 million retainer, issued as part of an agreement to represent Patrick Ho, a CEFC China Energy official, who would later be charged in the United States in connection with a multimillion-dollar scheme to bribe leaders from Chad and Uganda. There are also two other wires totaling $360,000.

Finally, the committee says that just over $4 million was transferred from CEFC to Hunter Biden’s company, Hudson West III, in 2016 and 2017. Many of these transactions were detailed in an October 2022 letter by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.).

(In his tax returns for 2016 and 2017, Hunter Biden reported receiving a total of about $2.6 million in 2017 and 2018 for the business transactions between Hudson West and CEFC. That is the figure we used in our previous analysis.)

The only link to Joe Biden in these millions of dollars is a $40,000 check written on Sept. 3, 2017, by Biden’s sister-in-law Sara Biden. She marked that it was a “loan repayment.” Biden had loaned his brother James $40,000 two months earlier, according to Democrats on the committee. But Republicans alleged that the money Joe Biden received originated with transfers from CEFC.

The committee says it is not counting a 2.8-carat diamond, now lost, that Hunter received from a Chinese official, according to the New Yorker. The magazine said that Hunter’s ex-wife claimed it was worth $80,000, but he said it was valued at only $10,000.

$4 million from Burisma

One of the staff memos relies on Internal Revenue Service whistleblower testimony that “Burisma paid to everyone involved” $6.5 million, of which $2.6 million went to Hunter Biden and the balance to Devon Archer, Hunter Biden’s former business partner. The committee spokesperson says the actual figure for Burisma payments to Hunter is more than $4 million. The committee “has bank records to support Hunter Biden (and his companies) received over $4 million in payments,” the spokesperson said.

Public reporting indicates that, as a board member, Hunter received $83,333.33 a month from April 2014 to January 2016 ($1.8 million) and $41,666.66 a month from February 2016 to 2019 ($1.6 million). That totals about $3.5 million. The spokesperson did not respond to a question about the discrepancy, but the original statement suggested some additional Burisma funds were sent to Hunter Biden’s companies.

$3.5 million from a Russian billionaire

Elena Baturina, a Russian billionaire, wired this amount of money to Rosemont Seneca Thornton LLC in 2014. A staff memo suggests that $2.75 million of Baturina’s transfer went to a firm that transferred funds to Hunter Biden, but the committee spokesperson said the full $3.5 million should be added because Hunter Biden was “chairman of Rosemont Seneca Partners, the beneficial entity of Rosemont Seneca Thornton. Thus, when $3.5 million was sent to an entity he had control over and was a beneficiary of, that is a payment he received.”

This appears to be stretch. Our reporting and Archer’s testimony suggest it is incorrect to assume Hunter ended up with this money. Under our accounting, this all would be considered money to an associate — Archer — since he says Baturina’s transfer was intended for a real estate transaction unconnected to Hunter. Our reporting showed that Archer kept alive Rosemont Seneca Thornton for his real estate business after his partners thought it had been dissolved.

$1.038 million in Romanian payments

The second staff memo says Romanian businessman Gabriel Popoviciu, later convicted on bribery-related charges, sent $3 million to the firm controlled by Rob Walker. The firm then gave $1.038 million to “Biden family accounts” after that transfer, most of which went to Hunter Biden.

$142,300 from a Kazakh businessman (to Hunter Biden to pay for a Porsche sports car).

That adds up to $15.18 million — if you include the Baturina transfer. Without that $3.5 million, the number shrinks to nearly $11.7 million. The committee claims an additional $500,000 in Burisma payments that have not yet been documented. If you don’t include that, the number would shrink to $11.2 million.

So far, only $40,000 of those funds — the loan repayment from Sara Biden — can in any way be connected to the president, and even that is an exaggeration.

Even if one accepts the committee’s $15 million estimate of money flowing to the “Biden family,” that’s still much less than the “more than $20 million” (Johnson), “tens of millions of dollars” (Comer) and “north of $50 million” (Mace) mentioned above. Comer, the chairman of the Oversight Committee, has especially played fast and loose with the numbers. He has said “tens of millions of dollars” many times, and in a Fox News interview in December said “it’s over $30 million now.”

The House speaker’s office issued a statement: “The extensive work of the House committees has documented more than $20 million flowing to President Biden’s family and business associates. It’s time for the Washington Post fact checking department to ask the White House about the President’s numerous lies to the American people about his interactions with his family’s business associates.”

It’s worth noting that in a USA Today opinion article in December, Johnson was more precise, saying that “Biden family members and their affiliate companies received more than $15 million.” While that figure may be debatable, at least it does not mix in money that flowed to business associates who are several degrees removed from the president.

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